01/22/2014 04:48 EST | Updated 03/24/2014 05:59 EDT

Surveillance Of B.C. Seniors Raising Privacy Concerns

A B.C. lawyer and privacy advocate is raising questions about the ways CCTV cameras and other technologies are being used to keep track of seniors.

B.C. Civil Liberties Association policy director Micheal Vonn says she is not too worried when security technology such as WanderGuard alert bracelets are used to monitor seniors suffering from dementia in acute care facilities or those at risk of falling.

But Vonn says she is concerned about the use of physical surveillance that extends to in-room video monitoring, the monitoring of vital signs, and the installation of these technologies in private homes.

Vonn says there's very little hard research to show that surveillance techniques actually make seniors safer.

"If we have a staff member available to sit in front of a bank of monitors or actually do rounds, do we know which one makes people safer? In fact we don’t."

"Technology isn't always the right answer," says Vonn, who questions who it actually benefits, the patient or their family.

Vonn points to a recent poll she says seniors often said they were willing to be monitored not so much for their own safety, but for the peace of mind of their caregivers. 

"Many seniors say, I understand I’m vulnerable and my family is being tasked in ways that are challenging for them. I would like to assist them in my care."

Vonn says installing closed circuit television cameras is a violation of privacy. She says hard questions need to be asked about what level of monitoring is appropriate before it becomes accepted practice.

She is one of three panel members participating in a discussion today at Vancouver's Terminal City Club called "Big Brother in Seniors Care: Surveillance Technology, Ethics and Privacy."

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